Also of interest…
In the not-so-good old days
The Field of Blood
by Joanne B. Freeman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28)
So much for the idea that civility reigned in ye olde Washington, said Andrew Delbanco in The Nation. In an “impressive feat of research,” historian Joanne Freeman has dug up evidence of a culture of violence on Capitol Hill that makes a famous near-fatal 1856 caning on the Senate floor seem far from an anomaly. Freeman’s chronicle of the threats, street fights, and duels that marked the life of our 19th-century elected leaders “has elements of both horror and slapstick.” It also adds perspective.
Hitler’s American Friends
by Bradley W. Hart (Thomas Dunne, $29)
Charles Lindbergh’s “America First” crowd and the rest of the nation’s far right were “more dangerous in the 1940s than historians often assume,” said Kip Wedel in OpenLettersReview.com. Though they never came close to seizing power, they did lasting damage by undermining democracy, leaking military secrets, and spreading anti-Semitism. Historian Bradley Hart lays out the evidence against them, introducing a rogues’ gallery that includes “a distressingly large number of ordinary Americans.”
The Poison Squad
by Deborah Blum (Penguin, $28)
Harvey Washington Wiley is a forgotten hero, said Eric Schlosser in The New York Times. Born in 1844 in a log cabin, the Indiana chemist became a national celebrity when he started exposing food-industry abuses—including formaldehyde-spiked milk and ground insects sold as brown sugar—that put people’s health at risk. Deborah Blum’s new book says too little about the broader Progressive movement. But it “makes a convincing case” that Wiley deserves our lasting gratitude.
Polio: The Odyssey of Eradication
by Thomas Abraham (Hurst, $30)
Despite “stunning progress” across the past three decades, the campaign to eradicate the poliovirus might be destined to fail, said Pamela Hines in ScienceMag.org. Thomas Abraham’s book reminds us that the task is complex: Better water sanitation sometimes contributes to virulent polio outbreaks—as it once did in the U.S. With new cases worldwide now few, the question becomes whether the fight’s still a sensible priority. Abraham’s study of the issue “gives plenty for scholars to debate.” ■